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Ayaan Hirsi Ali Reviews The West
I was hoping The Wall Street Journal would free up Joseph Rago's interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali that I read on the plane on the way home from New York, and they didn't disappoint. Here are a few excerpts:

Ms. Hirsi Ali was born in 1969 in Mogadishu--into, as she puts it, "the Islamic civilization, as far as you can call it a civilization." In 1992, at age 22, her family gave her hand to a distant relative; had the marriage ensued, she says, it would have been "an arranged rape." But as she was shipped to the appointment via Europe, she fled, obtaining asylum in Holland. There, "through observation, through experience, through reading," she acquainted herself with a different world. "The culture that I came to and I live in now is not perfect," Ms. Hirsi Ali says. "But this culture, the West, the product of the Enlightenment, is the best humanity has ever achieved."

After the murder of Theo Van Gogh over a film he made with her about passages from the Koran that authorize violence against women, she said:

"Immediately after the murder," Ms. Hirsi Ali says, "we learned Theo's killer had access to education, he had learned the language, he had taken welfare. He made it very clear he knew what democracy meant, he knew what liberalism was, and he consciously rejected it. . . . He said, 'I have an alternative framework. It's Islam. It's the Quran.' "

At his sentencing, Mohammed Buyeri said he would have killed his own brother, had he made "Submission" or otherwise insulted the One True Faith. "And why?" Ms. Hirsi Ali asks. "Because he said his god ordered him to do it. . . . We need to see," she continues, "that this isn't something that's caused by special offense, the right, Jews, poverty. It's religion."

After a Dutch hard-line minister canceled her asylum, she came to America and took a position with the American Enterprise Institute:

But the crisis, she says, is "still simmering underneath and it might erupt--somewhere, anywhere."

That partly explains why Ms. Hirsi Ali's new autobiography, Infidel, is already a best seller. It may also have something to do with the way she scrambles our expectations. In person, she is modest, graceful, enthralling. Intellectually, she is fierce, even predatory: "We know exactly what it is about but we don't have the guts to say it out loud," she says. "We are too weak to take up our role. The West is falling apart. The open society is coming undone."

Many liberals loathe her for disrupting an imagined "diversity" consensus: It is absurd, she argues, to pretend that cultures are all equal, or all equally desirable. But conservatives, and others, might be reasonably unnerved by her dim view of religion. She does not believe that Islam has been "hijacked" by fanatics, but that fanaticism is intrinsic in Islam itself: "Islam, even Islam in its nonviolent form, is dangerous."

The Muslim faith has many variations, but Ms. Hirsi Ali contends that the unities are of greater significance. "Islam has a very consistent doctrine," she says, "and I define Islam as I was taught to define it: submission to the will of Allah. His will is written in the Quran, and in the hadith and Sunna. What we are all taught is that when you want to make a distinction between right and wrong, you follow the prophet. Muhammad is the model guide for every Muslim through time, throughout history."

This supposition justifies, in her view, a withering critique of Islam's most holy human messenger. "You start by scrutinizing the morality of the prophet," and then ask: "Are you prepared to follow the morality of the prophet in a society such as this one?" She draws a connection between Mohammed's taking of child brides and modern sexual oppressions--what she calls "this imprisonment of women." She decries the murder of adulteresses and rape victims, the wearing of the veil, arranged marriages, domestic violence, genital mutilation and other contraventions of "the most basic freedoms."

These sufferings, she maintains, are traceable to theological imperatives. "People say it is a bad strategy," Ms. Hirsi Ali says forcefully. "I think it is the best strategy. . . . Muslims must choose to follow their rational capacities as humans and to follow reason instead of Quranic commands. At that point Islam will be reformed."

This worldview has led certain critics to dismiss Ms. Hirsi Ali as a secular extremist. "I have my ideas and my views," she says, "and I want to argue them. It is our obligation to look at things critically." As to the charges that she is an "Enlightenment fundamentalist," she points out, rightly, that people who live in democratic societies are not supposed to settle their disagreements by killing one another.

Posted by aalkon at March 12, 2007 9:44 AM

Comments

très bien, Amy....merci

Posted by: André-Tascha at March 12, 2007 6:24 AM

"We are too weak to take up our role. The West is falling apart. The open society is coming undone."

I wonder how pessimistic we should be.

Radical Islam fits a parasitic model with regards to the West: they need our markets, our modern communications, our modern financial practices to exist in their current form. It is not in a parasite's self interest to destroy the host. I think most radical groups realize this, and we are seeing some moderation towards that end. Many groups are embracing democracy, and few large organized groups are advocating big attacks on the West. Hezbollah may have the motto "Death to America", but they know from where the butter flows.

Posted by: doombuggy at March 12, 2007 7:33 AM

doombuggy: I do not concur...

My perception is that the radical Islamic factions feel that they do not need us. If they are able to overthrow the House of Saud (and similar regimes), than they shall control the resources. Said resources are not just oil and the like, but the accompanying infrastructure (e.g. telecom, mass media, etc). There are some very sophisticated service providers/product developers in the middle east who would still be able to produce in the event of an overthrow. Afghanistan is/was an aberration. Yes, the mud huts and all of that, however, they had been in an almost constant high state of war since just prior to the Soviet invasion.

Look at Iran. Despite the embassy takeover and resultant poor relations for years after, there were many countries who were willing to continue to do business with them. They did not turn into another Afghanistan. And remember China. Their growth potential is so massive, that (my assumption) they could/would suck up anything lost from the west (and enjoy doing so as well as a tweak to the west).

Posted by: André-Tascha at March 12, 2007 8:20 AM

doombuggy is indulging in wishful thinking.

All cultures are most assuredly not equal. I'll believe others are equal as soon as immigration and emmigration balance...

Alec Baldwin has yet to leave the country.

Posted by: MarkD at March 12, 2007 8:56 AM

I'm sure some Islamists think they have enough infrastructure to support a modern Caliphate.

But, maintaining this infrastructure is an expensive undertaking. I think there is an acknowledgment by the "cooler heads" that they need markets in western type countries to make the oil valuable, and to keep the oil valuable, they need to keep some modern societies around. Iran trading with France, and courting China, is an example of this.

Posted by: doombuggyr at March 12, 2007 10:39 AM

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